June 19, 2012

Possible trial for Neal months away

Completed autopsy report still not in

Mark Millican
markmillican@daltoncitizen.com

— After the week-long manhunt for and capture three weeks ago of accused murderer Adolph Ray “Sonny” Neal, any bond set by a Whitfield County Superior Court judge would likely be very high, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent said.

Neal, 49, is accused of two murders in the death of his wife, Jessica Neal, 27, and her grandfather, Don William Shedd, 69, on May 24 on Green Springs Road in the Dawnville community. Neal eluded law enforcement authorities for a week until his capture 12 miles away in Varnell on May 31.

Neal spent a night in Hamilton Medical Center under guard while being treated for dehydration and other “environmental” injuries associated with being outdoors for a week, authorities said. He has been in the Whitfield County jail since his release from the hospital.

Agent Greg Ramey said on Monday that the Calhoun GBI office is “in a mode of getting all our information in.”

“I would say we’re probably a couple of weeks away from having an official printed report,” he said. “It usually takes about a month to six weeks to get an autopsy report printed out. The normal course of business is once we get the autopsy report back everybody gets all their summaries (together). I’m still seeing some come in about the investigation from agents. It will probably be the first to middle part of July. We’ll sit down and put everything together and review it to make sure everybody’s done everything they’re supposed to do from an agent’s standpoint.”

Ramey said Agent Daniel Sims is taking the lead on the case.

“He’ll submit his case file to the (district attorney), Mr. (Bert) Poston,” Ramey explained. “From there the next thing that will happen is it will go to (the) grand jury and then there’ll be arraignment after grand jury (if the case moves forward).”

Ramey said Neal is in jail “under no bond” status.

“Typically what will happen when we get a situation like that, you either have to try the case within 180 days or at the end of those 180 days you at least have to set a bond,” Ramey said. “Now that doesn’t mean he’s going to make (a bond). (The judge) may set a $1 million bond. If he sets it very high, it may be because he was on the run for a week and has a propensity to not want to show up ... given Mr. Neal’s first opportunity to turn himself in, he didn’t.”

Dalton attorney Marcus Morris was retained by the Neal family to deal with the bond issue. He withdrew a defense motion for bond a week after Neal’s arrest. Morris did not immediately return a phone call on Monday.

Poston said on Monday that any defendant charged with a crime is entitled to ask for bond, but the state is “not required to do so.”

“Persons charged with misdemeanors are entitled to bond immediately,” he clarified. “Persons charged with felonies are not entitled to bond unless they remain in custody unindicted for 90 days, or in the case of death penalty cases, 180 days. Mr. Neal withdrew his request for bond (through Morris). Thus, he has not been denied bond at this point, he’s just not had a hearing on it by his own choice.”

Ramey said it could be the end of the year before Neal’s case goes to trial.

“I would think we’d be ready to go to court in six months, but I don’t know that the defense would,” he said. “By law, he’ll be ready to go to trial in six months if there has been no bond set, or they have to set a bond — but again, he’s not just entitled to have a bond given to him or set just so he can get out. I would anticipate they’ll set it high enough they’ll be sure he shows up.”